Farm Collector

Blymyer Iron Works

One of the striking features of America on the
eve of the Civil War was the number of companies manufacturing
steam engines for agricultural purposes. Cincinnati offers a case
in point. I have already outlined the history of Miles Greenwood
and his justly famous Eagle Iron Works in my article entitled “When
Steam was King … and Cincinnati was Queen,” Iron-Men
Album
, January/February 1996. In that same story, I covered
Lane & Bodley, well-known successor to Reynolds, Kite &
Tatum. It is important to recognize the 10 other Cincinnati
concerns – all but one of them fleeting – that built engines with
applications to agriculture:

THE FIRST
NINE

1. Around 1849, James Todd started a foundry and machine shop. A
decade later, Todd’s advertisements in city directories mentioned
portable corn and flouring mills, steam engines, and other
machines. A year or two after the close of the War Between the
States, Todd’s business ended.

2-4. In 1856, steam engines were produced in the Columbia
foundry of J.H. Burrows & Co., David Griffey’s Fayette Works
and Lee & Leavitt’s sawmill factory. All three firms
disappeared after that year.

5. Beginning in 1856, the firm of George D. Winchell &
Brother built steam pumps, pipe, fittings, brass valves, couplings,
nozzles and rubber hoses. Winchell’s advertisements in city
directories included stationary and portable engines, and boilers.
In 1863, the hydraulic works of Charles C. Winchell replaced the
earlier firm. In 1865, Charles C. Winchell listed portable and
stationary engines. There were no Winchell advertisements after
that year.

6. In 1858, Captain Oliver Palmer, associated with F. Calligan
& Co. in Buffalo, N.Y., joined Captain David Millard in
Cincinnati to publish a catalog proclaiming the advantages of
Palmer’s rotary, hydraulic, lifting and forcing pump. The year
before, Palmer had won the New York State Agricultural Society
silver medal for his hydraulic force-pump. In 1860, Palmer formed
the Palmer Pump Co. at the corner of the Miami Canal and Third
Street; he advertised portable engines in 5, 6 and 8 HP. By 1862,
Palmer’s manufactory had faded from view in the Cincinnati city
directories.

7. The British American Guide Book, published in New
York in 1859, included an advertisement for Cincinnati’s W.W. Hamer
& Co., which furnished portable and stationary engines, as well
as saws, corn and feed mills, corn shellers, grain scales, and
flour packers.

8. In 1862, while the firm of Lane & Bodley was producing
steam engines in its foundry and machine shop at the southeast
corner of John and Water streets, the Hamilton Iron Foundry of W.W.
Hanes manufactured circular sawmills, grist mills, boilers, and
steam engines on the northeast corner of the same streets. City
directories carried no listing for Hanes in 1865.

9. For only the year 1864, Day, Lee & Co. built circular
sawmills, portable engines and stationary engines in its factory at
the corner of Hamilton Road and Walnut Street.

BLYMER – THE
LASTING TENTH

While the 1850s and 1860s witnessed the sudden birth and equally
sudden death of at least nine Cincinnati steam engine
manufacturers, another company in addition to Greenwood and Lane
& Bodley achieved lasting success. It was the Blymyer Mfg. Co.,
a major firm the history of which has long deserved to be
chronicled.

The year was 1866. Various entrepreneurs in the North considered
the end of the Civil War a favorable time to profit from the
reestablishment of trade with their former patrons in the South.
The Blymyers of Mansfield, Ohio, shared this perception. The
Blymyer family had manufactured Cook’s sugar cane evaporators for a
number of years in Mansfield. Planning to take advantage of
steamboat shipping to ports along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers,
and of railway transportation to markets throughout the former
confederacy, William H. Blymyer sold the Blymyer, Day & Co.
works in Mansfield in 1865. He then assumed the presidency of the
Clark Sorgho Machine Co. in Cincinnati in late 1866. The Blymyer
family became the successors to Clark of Cincinnati in 1867. W.H.
Clark continued to work for the Blymyer firm. By 1870 the Blymyer
foundry, located on West Eighth Street in Cincinnati, was producing
sugar machines and agricultural equipment at a prodigious rate.

On May 5, 1871, Blymyer sustained a $40,000 loss by fire, the
bane of 19-century factories. Beginning in 1872 – the year of the
horse epizootic that brought Cincinnati businesses to a standstill
– the firm was named Blymyer, Norton & Co. Besides agricultural
machinery in general and sugar cane processing equipment in
particular, the manufacturer advertised bells, which became a
significant product of the rapidly growing company.

The following year, the firm was renamed Blymyer Mfg. Co. While
a national financial panic and a regional cholera epidemic menaced
business in 1873, Cincinnati managed to host the fourth Industrial
Exposition. W.H. Blymyer was the fair’s president. Under his shrewd
leadership, the Industrial Exposition earned a profit in excess of
$10,000 – a sizable sum for those days. The money went a long way
toward paying debts accrued from previous fairs.

In 1878, Blymyer was advertising shaker threshing machines. On
Sept. 23 of the following year, John S. Blymyer secured patent no.
219,797 for his cane-evaporating pan and was assigned two other
patents for similar pans. The firm continued a robust trade in
agricultural equipment through the late 1880s.

Around 1889 the Cincinnati Bell Foundry Co. became successors to
the Blymyer Mfg. Co., but the Blymyer Iron Works Co. continued to
produce cane equipment. By 1889, J.S. Blymyer was named president
of the Cincinnati Ice Machine Co., and, in 1891, D.W. Blymyer
served as president of both the ice machine firm and the iron
works.

The first mention of steam engines in Blymyer advertisements
occurred in 1875; the last, in 1889. It is safe to assume that
Blymyer engines were manufactured for 14 years. During its heyday,
Blymyer sold a full line of sorghum and sugar cane mills, portable
grain mills, evaporators, vacuum pans, centrifugal machines, shaker
separators, single-gear horsepowers, cross-cut sawing machines,
corn planters, corn and cob crushers, corn shellers, feed cutters
and sulky rakes.

Blymer also manufactured boilers and vertical portable engines
introduced in 1877 known by the product name Queen City (4, 6 and 8
HP), portable engines on wheels (6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 16, 20, 25 and 30
HP), the same engines on skids, the same engines detached from
their boilers and set up as stationary engines, side-crank
stationary engines (cylinder sizes 5-by-10-, 6-by-10-, 7-by-10-,
8-by-12-, 9-by-12- and 10-by-15-inch), center-crank stationary
engines (same sizes), standard stationary engines (cylinder sizes
6-by-12-, 7-by-12-, 8-by-16-, 9-by-16-, 10-by-16-, 10-by-20-,
12-by-16-, 12-by-20-, 12-by-24-, 14-by-24-, 16-by-24- and
18-by-30-inch), and long-stroke engines (cylinder sizes 14-by-48-,
15-by-48-, 16-by-48- and 18-by-48-inch).

Blymyer portable engines powered cotton gins, threshers, cane
mills, cheese factories – even printing presses. Blymyer stationary
engines won medals awarded by the Centennial Exhibition in
Philadelphia in 1876 and the International Cotton Exposition in
Atlanta in 1881. The gold medal of the Cincinnati Exhibition of
1879 went to the Blymyer stationary engine. Blymyer also won first
premiums for the Victor mill and Cook evaporator at over a hundred
state fairs, at the Cincinnati Expositions and at the Centennial
Exhibition

By 1893, the Blymyers were so successful they had a large
building named for them at 216 Main St. In 1901, William H. Blymyer
resumed the presidency of the resurrected Blymyer Mfg. Co. Around
1904, the Blymyer firm vanished, perhaps a victim of the 1903-04
financial panics. Whatever the cause of its demise, Blymyer had
enjoyed a remarkable manufacturing history stretching over 40
years.

Contact steam historian Robert T. Rhode at: 990 W. Lower
Springboro Road, Springboro, OH 45066;
case65@earthlink.net

NOTES:

• For more about Miles Greenwood and Lane & Bodley, see
article “When Steam was King … and Cincinnati was Queen.”
Iron-Men Album 50.3 (1996): 2-7.

Palmer’s Rotary, Hydraulic Lifting and Forcing Pump.
Cincinnati: n.p., 1858.

• History of Richland County.
www.heritagepursuit.com/Richland

• Ford, Henry A. and Kate B. History of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Cleveland: L.A. Williams, 1881.

• For more about the equine influenza attack, see article “An
Engine and an Epidemic,” Engineers and Engines 43.6
(1998): 38-43.

• Greve, Charles Theodore. Centennial History of Cincinnati.
Vol. 1
. Chicago: Biographical, 1904. 865.

  • Published on Nov 1, 2005
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